Tuesday, 17 November 2015

The Last of the Esparteros

Manuel Becerra runs the last espartería remaining in Jerez. It is a workshop at the end of the Calle Porvera where he makes things out of esparto grass, like his father before him. It is an ancient trade, and he makes an incredibly diverse range of products: chair seats from rope, rattan or bullrush, brushes from palm fronds, baskets, panniers, hats, wickerwork for garrafas (huge round bottles) and all sorts of persianas (blinds) and mats. He made the blinds for Lola Flores’ house in Madrid.

The Sherry producers are among his best customers. Bodega windows have esparto blinds to diffuse the sunlight, and when moistened, cool the air entering the bodega. The “esterillas” or “redores”, the mats which are used to sun and press the Moscatel and PX grapes, are made from esparto and need to be replaced every now and then. He has recently done work for Sánchez Romate and Estévez.

A typical domestic persiana
His extensive range of products reflects changing times for an ancient trade, and he has suffered during the crisis like everyone else and had to reduce prices, but working with his brother Juan Luís who buys the esparto and sells the products outside the shop has helped. Another worry is if anyone will want to carry on such a traditional trade after he has retired.

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